Friday, August 27, 2010

Jeffrey Spencer...

In evening in early September 2009, I was alone in a hotel room far from my home. I sat and listened to some old music that evening that I hadn’t heard in quite some time, and as I did, the memories came flooding in to dance around me. I laughed, I cried, and I started to write. I penned the following words that evening:

"...the closest bonds in this life are formed by struggling together. If we didn't ever struggle, we might never have truly meaningful or close relationships."

It was an article that I meant to post here, a blogpost to honor my closest friends, the people that I had laughed and cried with, the people that I had struggled with, and for.

I never posted it.

Five days later, sitting at my desk, I got a phone call, the voice on the line telling me that one of my best friends, Jeffery Spencer had just died that evening.

As I got in the car and drove up to see his family, I thought back to the few short days before when I had been sitting in that hotel room. The tears that I had cried that night, the great peace that I had felt, and the gratitude I had felt for all of the wonderful times that I had spent with Jeff and others.

I thought of the times when I had so desperately held on to ideals, hopes, and dreams.

And then I thought about the people that struggled with me through those times. The people that would listen to me babble on and on about those dreams. People like Jeff.

I decided that night that it's one thing to care about people, but it's an entirely different matter to struggle with another person for their interests. To struggle in such a way as to help them work for it themselves. That just might be one of the things in this life really truly worth living for.

Jeff did that a time or two for me, and they were the important times.

I remember stopping by his house one night when I was badly discouraged. Somehow, he knew what to say, and when I left, I felt like it would all be okay.

Jeff was the one that got me started on drinking gourmet cream sodas. It became a ritual to drink them and talk about the issues of life.

I could go on for pages here about the hilarious experiences we had, from me getting a concussion while we were night skiing, to us working on the roof of his house, to us riding around Bountiful in his huge jeep and discussing religion.

He was a person that loved other people. He simply cared about them. He was always ready to grab you into a big bear hug when he saw you. And he was willing to struggle with you.

I'm really grateful for the people that I've had the opportunity to really, truly struggle with. I believe that it's generated some of the closest friends that I could hope for.

Thank you, each one of you...

I'd especially like to thank Jeff today. This picture is dedicated in tribute to him, because when I look at it, I think of him.

And on September 9th, I'm going to sit down and have a fine Cream memory of him.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


As a nation, we recently celebrated our birthday, Independence Day. The day when we stood up, declared our self a sovereign nation, and swore to free ourselves from the rule and tyranny we had labored under. We decided that we were worthy of self-government, and that we were willing to shoulder the responsibility associated with our own choices. God was on our side, and we won against our mother country. The United States of America was born.

Two Hundred and Thirty-Four years later, we stand in the middle of another battleground. All around us, are people that seek to slough off the responsibilities that are theirs. People willing to violate the natural laws of actions and consequence. People looking to governments to somehow solve their problems for them. In short, people do not want to think. They do not want to work. And they do not want to be held accountable for their actions.

Even worse, are the leaders that are not held accountable before the people. Government's seek for a stronger hand, and politicians scheme the ways that they may crush out the individual in trade for a collective mass. Control is in their design. Freedom? Responsibility? Accountability? Where are these things?


The American people must not stand by and watch as though it was some movie in which they take only a marginal interest, or a game to be forgotten tomorrow. We did not become a great, free nation through the mediocrity of human spirit. We were not favored by God because we stood and begged someone to save us from our actions.

We became a great nation because men and women were willing to act according to what was right. They were willing to recognize that every individual has a responsibility for their own soul, their own life, their own actions.

We can not undertake to remove responsibility from people. As a nation, we must shoulder up, and act as though God himself intended for us to act, with courage, dignity, honesty, and purpose.

Freedom will not last without our effort. It will become the stuff of a distant dream, lost in the legends of great men and women.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Frank Sefton Naylor, Jr...

Today is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, and so it seems fitting that I should write a note of tribute for him.

Frank Sefton Naylor Jr, was born in 1910. He lived through an age that saw possibly more advancements than any other previous age. As a boy, he rode in a wagon, milked cows by hand, and used oil burning lamps for light.

He was a small boy during World War I, a young man through the Great Depression, and was a father with children during World War II.

By the time he died in 1997, he had seen and played his part in a world changed by technology. He had seen the changes in the ways people traveled, the advent of the personal computer, and the beginning of the internet explosion.

My dad came from a strong pioneer background. His grandparents on both sides were from England and Scotland. As converts to the Mormon faith, they came to America, and then on to Utah. Here they built their lives and families. The Laird family, from his mother's side, came across the plains in the Willie Handcart company, and endured the tremendous trials that faced that company of pioneers.

He was a private man, and he wasn't known for loving the association of large crowds. He was more likely to be found in privacy. He was a fantastic storyteller, and would often recount tales of his childhood in a sort of vivid detail that made you feel as though you were there.

Dad was not one to show overwhelming affection, yet somehow he communicated that he cared, and I don't recall ever questioning that. As a child, I frequently felt that he was on my side, even though it might not have appeared so at the time. He was relatively old when I was born, although I never really considered him old at the time. He was simply my dad, and that was that.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that he taught me was to be a person that other people could have confidence in, the kind of person that could be trusted to do the things that you were trusted to do. It happened in the summer of 1986, through the following experience:

When I was nine years old, we moved into some fairly remote desert country down in Arizona. There were some people starting a sort of town there, and we went to help build it.

For the first few months, we hauled all of our water from a nearby cattle well in a little trailer with a water tank on it. We would drive out to the windmill powered well, fill up the storage tank with a small pump, and then drive back to the trailer house that we lived in while we built our main house.

For the first month or so, because of the difficulty of hauling the water, then we didn't pipe it into the house. Instead, we filled plastic milk jugs, and carried them into the house to be used.

The water tank that we used to haul the water had a small spigot on it that was used to fill the water jugs. The tank was old, and the spigot was clogged with rust, so the water came out very slowly. Filling the jugs was a tedious process that required that a person sit there and wait for the water to dribble out, fill the jug, and then move the jug and start the process all over.

I was assigned to fill the jugs. The first day, I neglected the task entirely, and my sister went out to get some water. She started the jug filling, and got distracted with more important things. The jug filled up, ran over, and a quarter of the tank ended up wasted in the beautiful red Arizona sand.

When my dad found out about it, he called for me.

It wasn't a long talk, and he really didn't say all that much, but I remember it quite vividly to this day. He sat there on his chair, supervising the building of our house. He told me that I had not done what I was told to do.

"If you're not going to do what I ask you to do,” he said, "I can't have confidence in you.”

Somewhere in that moment, the lectures I had heard on "having confidence in people" all came to my mind and sort of crystalized into something tangible. Maybe it was all part of my fundamental need to help people, or my need to do the "right thing.” I don't really know what it was, except that it really hit me in the stomach that day, and I recall being overwhelmed by a deep sense of remorse over the fact that I had somehow betrayed a confidence.

From then on, I never neglected the water situation again. I found faster and better ways of getting the water out of the tank into the bottles. As it turned out, siphoning it from the top of the tank was the best way around the slow spigot.

But what happened that day, as the pool of water soaked into the sand, turned out to be a powerful teaching moment. A simple sentence uttered by him that totally changed me.

That was my first real lesson in responsibility, ownership, and trust. And it was taught powerfully well. Well enough that it continues to affect me today.

Here's to Frank Sefton Naylor, Jr. a man that I'm proud to call my Father. I'm grateful for the lessons he taught me, and the life that he lived.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

A plea from our hearts...


...and Love.

We're all human. All the world over. We all feel the same emotions, and experience similar experiences that are dear to us.

It's 12:30 am, and I write these few lines from my hotel, nestled in the heart of Jerusalem. I have been in Israel now for a week, and I will be here a couple more days before I return home to the United States. I've dragged myself from site to site and church to church, and I'm not even done yet.

Israel is in a place that is torn, and torn again. It's so torn that it ought to be threadbare if it isn't. There are so many denomnations represented here on these lands that I can't even begin to keep track of them all. Many of them dislike each other.

In the least cases, they can't get along enough to clean a church, so it falls into demise and gets covered in filth and dross.

They fly miltary fighters jets around at regular intervals to keep watch, and they have miltary checkpoints periodically on the highways.

Some of this ground is said to of had more blood spilt on it than anyplace else in the world. So why? Why can't we understand each other a little more? Why can't we be just a little compassionionate? Why can't we sit down and iron out our differences and stop the hate, the anger, the bloodshed?

But I know why. I understand the nature of a fundamentalist sect better then most. I understand how they think, and how they are taught. The situation makes me want to sit down and weep. I don't know that it can change without a whole lot more suffering and pain. I wish that it could, but I don't know.

My solace lies in the fact that I am a person of faith, and I trust that the Lord can work all things to his end, and for his good.Go out today, and care about someone. Show compassion for them, regardless of who they are, what they look like, and what you think about their beliefs.

The "Wailing Wall", or Western Wall of the ancient temple complex in Jerusalem, Israel.

This is perhaps the most profound place in Israel that I have visited. It is the most holy site for the Jewish people, and I was deeeply touched by their reverence for this place.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


We all hear it from time to time, people saying that your failures can turn into your greatest successes. But when your standing firmly in the moment of failure, it's a little hard to see through the fog of what seems like your own personal earthquake.

In December of 2007, I visited the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, in Santa Barbara, California. While there, I took some of the photographs that have been previously posted here on my blog. These include "The Grandfathers" and "Bridges of Transition".

In December of 2009, I visited the Garden again. When I wandered into the gardens that day, I expected to find everything as it was the last time that I was there, perhaps thinking it had been maintained in some sort of blissful stasis. I was very soon reminded that "stasis" is not really a popular idea in the natural world.

Upon entering the Garden, the lady at the registration desk informed me that there had been a fire that had ravaged the garden. Fire crews had saved as much as they could. The walk bridge it turned out, was lost. I asked about the redwoods, and she said that they had been saved.

I wandered through the Garden that day encountering burned objects here and there. Although most of the trees were preserved, their trunks were black with soot and charred bits of bark. The majority of the thick brush that was once there was now gone. As I looked up at the surrounding hillsides, the charred remains of trees and bushes told the story of the fire that had indeed ravished the entire area. No doubt, it was the efforts of the firefighters that had saved any of the Garden at all.

I'm in sales as an occupation. I've been doing this for years, and believe me, I know what failure tastes like on so many levels, including business failures, financial failures, relationship failures, and simple, silly things like dancing failures.

Perhaps that's why I had a strange attraction to this burned shed when I came across it that day. Doors hanging open, the paint all burned and charred. It looked like I think people feel sometimes. Even the stuff inside was burned, ruined and worthless. All around the shed the trees were burned, and charcoal littered the earth, intermingled with the wood shavings left from the cleaning crews that had shredded up all the debris left after the fire.

And then there was a little green bush growing there in front of it. To be sure, it was small, but it was green and it was Alive! My attention turned to the recovery of the garden around me. Nature, refusing to be locked in stagnation, is ever changing, and it was coming back! Shoots of grass were pushing out everywhere, little bushes were growing, and all around me was an abundance of life!

The beauty of observing nature for me, is that the lessons are real. We know they are natural, and that they are not the products of hype, marketing, etc. Thus, the lessons become important to us. They become a type and pattern for us to follow, to apply to ourselves and our own lives.

Over the next little while, I'm going to be working on a series of articles that focus on recovery and growth in the midst of opposition. We'll talk about thinking patterns, ideas for how to change, and I'll share some of my favorite stories and quotes centered around this topic.

To be continued . . .


Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Song...

Located in Seattle along the banks of Puget Sound lies Discovery Park. The park is a sprawling 534 acre natural area that has the certain tranquility about it that we discover when we visit a natural area in the midst of a spralling metro.

Standing on 20 acres within the park, is the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, which is a conference/community center maintained and managed by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation.

It was a beautiful spring day, and I had been wandering through the park. The sun was out, but it was filtered by a light and thin cloud layer, almost like a haze of sorts. The effect was a very pleasant softening effect on the light. There was little or no breeze that day, and the grass seemed to glow with a strange sort of florescence that was radiating from the inside out. The trees were beginning to bud, and one could tell that the whole area was about to burst in a magnificent display of the wonders of nature as spring emerged.

I wandered into the Daybreak Star Center, and there in the hallway was an old piano. It looked rough, and I went to it and plunked a couple of the keys. It sounded old, and probably way off tune, but I had the sudden desire to play the old piano.

I wandered towards the back offices until I found some people, and asked them if I could play it. The old native gentlemen looked at me sort of strangely. "Sure" he replied.

The piano bench had been confiscated, so I borrowed one of the guest chairs that was sitting at the entrance. I sat down and tentatively fingered the keys, letting myself feel the roughness of the instrument and the energy that it had acquired over the years of its use. Doubtless, it had seen many faces, and it was probably donated to the center by some kind soul that could no longer play it.

I began a song. A simple tune, no doubt repetitive, and known only to me. The music came from my soul that day, a sort of melancholy sadness perhaps evident in the music. Visitors wandered through, looking at the various pieces of art on display. I paid them no mind. It was about me, the piano, and the expressions of my soul.

For perhaps 45 minutes, I played to the people of the past, the people of the present, and the people of the future. When my song ended, I quietly put the chair back and left. I felt better, perhaps cleansed a bit, and I was thankful to the people at the Daybreak Star. The old piano had helped me that day.